Being either transgender or an immigrant hasn’t been easy in this country over the last few years, but there are signs that there’s a gradual social progression forward as people become more accepting of both groups.
With that in mind, if you’re a trans immigrant, there are things you need to know about how the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) handles gender changes on important documents.
When will the USCIS recognize your gender identification?
USCIS policy says that an immigrant’s gender change must be recognized by immigration authorities “when a court or government with jurisdiction recognizes the change, or when a licensed health care professional certifies that the requested gender designation is consistent with that person’s gender identity.”
In practical terms, that means that you can obtain new secure identity documents that reflect your correct gender (and your new name, if you have already completed that process) with nothing more than a letter from your doctor. You cannot be required to prove (or have) sex reassignment surgery in order to obtain the new documents.
If your immigration case is pending with USCIS, you should make sure that you immediately update the agency about the change. Trans immigrants who have a work visa, a green card, naturalization papers or citizenship should also immediately request updated documents to make sure that they are able to access all the benefits to which they may be entitled without discrimination or delays.
It can be very intimidating to work through the process of updating your information with USCIS, especially when you’re conscious of the prejudices people may carry. Having legal assistance to guide you through the process can take some of the burdens off your shoulders.